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Halloween may be over but it’s still the season for ghostly spirits. The Lamont Gallery at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, N.H. is celebrating “the uncanny, the curious and the quite possibly magical” in a four-person exhibit, “Strange Days”, through December 15, 2014. Curator Lauren O’Neal drew on literary and artistic traditional tales of magic, witchcraft and the uncanny, with beautifully grotesque ceramics by Angela Cunningham, fancifully monstrous drawings by Haig Demarjian, cleverly enigmatic photography by Bill Franson and paintings of spiritual longing by Pauline Lim.
The photography of Bill Franson (see Feature Image), who captures the magical strangeness of the everyday, instigated my interest in this exhibit but I found myself completely entranced by the witty integration of its theme. These four imaginative artists utilizing different media create a rich interplay: Demarjian’s shape-shifting beings find echoes in Cunningham’s alien sculptural forms, while mystical adages on Lim’s paintings resonate with the often quizzical aphorisms that Franson discovers in his photography.
The work of each artist is plentiful enough in this show to have both breadth and depth. The accompanying curatorial wall text is equally broad and engaging, offering examples of related stories and evocative poetry. Happily, there is also plenty left unexplained and open to the imagination, allowing viewers to despair or chuckle at their whim. As Curator Lauren O’Neal says, “The artists in Strange Days invite us to explore the terrain of the imagination, to find magic in the everyday and to entertain the possibility of the impossible.”
As I mentioned, I was initially drawn to this show by Bill Franson’s B&W film photography. His astute eye for environmental double entendre and witty, sophisticated compositions combine in traditionally hand-printed gelatin silver photographs that seem truly magical. Franson’s keen talent for creating tension through ambiguity is joined by those of Lim, Cunningham and Demarjian to produce an alchemy greater than the sum of its parts in a delightfully fulfilling show.
Feature Image: “Self-Portrait, Exeter, 2009” gelatin silver print by Bill Franson (courtesy of the artist, Lamont Gallery, Exeter, NH and Panopticon Gallery, Boston)
The Lamont Gallery is hosting a number of upcoming events for this exhibit. For more information and directions, go to: http://www.exeter.edu/arts/9140.aspx